Life Lab

Life Lab cultivates children's love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education.

Life Lab’s Effective Outdoor Management Handout (Two page PDF or view text below.)

More resources on effective outdoor management:

How Can I Possibly Manage 30 Kids Outdoors in a Garden? 

Outdoor classroom management is an integral part of a successful school garden program. Many teachers find it challenging to work with their classes outside because of students’ high energy and the distractions that exist outdoors. When we are able to channel students’ energy and enthusiasm toward focused learning activities, however, and use “distractions” — such as spider webs, birdcalls, or ripe strawberries — as teaching tools, then the garden becomes an exceptionally effective and exciting space for learning. Ultimately, a well-managed garden provides teachers with new ways to motivate students and demonstrate concepts, and provides students with abundant opportunities to explore the natural world, apply skills learned in multiple academic areas, discover the joys of healthy eating, and work together. Educators have identified the following management strategies for making garden-based learning effective and enjoyable. 

Perceptions 

The school garden is a unique learning environment, with activities that are usually more structured than recess, but also often more physical and open-ended than those done in the classroom. In order to set the tone of this new learning environment: 

  • Design the garden so that it is easy for students to follow the rules. For example, make pathways wide, mark beds clearly, and create a labeled and organized space to store all tools. 
  • When introducing the garden, use language that reflects the goals of the space, such as “garden classroom” or “living laboratory.” 
  • Create and follow predictable routines, such as starting each class by gathering in a circle to talk about the main idea and activities for the day, and review behavior expectations. 
  • To foster the perception of the garden as something to look forward to …
    • Start your year out with something highly engaging, like harvesting and eating Six Plant Part Burritos or feeding the worms in the worm bin.
    • Provide plentiful opportunities for students to harvest and eat from the garden, and also to use tools they can manage.
    • Look for opportunities to provide students with choices. They may be able to choose, for example, which chore to work on or which seeds to plant. 

Personal Relationships 

  • Give students opportunities to practice cooperative learning skills, such as listening and sharing responsibilities. The first chapter of The Growing Classroom is full of activities designed to encourage these behaviors. 
  • Divide students into small groups for hands-on activities. In some instances, all the groups might be doing the same thing in different parts of the garden. In other instances, you might have multiple stations for groups to rotate through. 

Parameters 

Clarify for yourself and then for your students what types of behaviors are appropriate in the school garden, and how expectations and consequences will be similar and/or different from in the classroom. For example, informal conversation is often more welcome in a school garden than in a classroom, but put downs are not allowed in either location. 

  • Discuss the importance of staying safe and respecting all living things, including plants, animals, one another, and the adults in the garden. Enlist students’ ideas to establish a simple list of garden rules toward this end, as in the illustrated sample. 
  • When using tools, establish and model safe use of those specific tools. Some sample tool rules include: 
    • Keep the pointed end below your knee at all times.
    • Always walk when moving with a tool.
    • Clean and put tools away when finished working. 
  • Establish a call back signal, such as a coyote howl or a ringing gong, to let students know when it is time to rotate groups or return to the circle. 
  • Help students stay comfortable: When you’re addressing the group, wear a sunhat and look into the sun so that they won’t have to. A shaded gathering area can be very helpful. Also consider other equipment, such as work gloves for hands and carpet squares for kneeling or sitting on the ground. 

Participation 

  • Make sure that everyone in a group has a clear task. For example, a group building a compost pile might have a browns team, a greens team, a soil team, etc. 
  • Balance quiet, reflective activities with active, hands-on activities. 
  • When possible, use support from other school staff, parent or community volunteers, university students, or other invested adults to reduce the adult-to- student ratio in the garden. 
  • Consider buddying a younger class with an older class for cross-age-tutoring out in the garden. 

Be Prepared 

  • In addition to your planned activities, have a set of “back pocket activities” ready to go, in case a student or group finishes their task early or requires some redirection. See the Back Pocket handout for ideas. 
  • Keep a first aid kit, sunscreen, and drinking water in your garden. 
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3 days ago

Life Lab

As we all navigate the dynamics of distance learning education, Life Lab would like to offer support.

Check out our website Lifelab.org/Covid-19/ for resources outlining the potential for outdoor learning spaces to provide "extra “classroom” space; allow for social distancing; and provide strategic and cost-effective tools for improving academic, mental and physical well being. #outdoorlearningspaces #outdooreducation #schoolgardens #lifelab #notallclassroomshavefourwalls #livinglaboratory #socialemotionallearning See MoreSee Less

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2 weeks ago

Life Lab

Today’s Thankful Thursday shout out goes to our @pajarovalleyusd Partner Schools: Hall District Elementary, H. A. Hyde Elementary, Starlight Elementary, Amesti Elementary, Ohlone Elementary, Ann Soldo Elementary, & McQuiddy Elementary🌱We look forward to another school year of bringing learning to life through nature based education🌻#schoolgardens #lifelab #thankfulthursday #nature #education See MoreSee Less

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2 weeks ago

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Change is good and delicious #Blackberry #schoolgardens #outdoorlearning #LifeLab #gardeneducation See MoreSee Less

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4 weeks ago

Life Lab

We are grateful for the continued support from @newleafcmarket Life Lab is honored to have been chosen as a community non-profit benefactor of their Bloom Wellness products that are all organic, non-GMO, & gluten free. Our partnership reflects New Leaf Community Markets’ core values of education, environmental stewardship, and nutrition. #thankyouthursday #schoolgardens #lifelab #newleafcommunitymarket #gardensofgratitude See MoreSee Less

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1 month ago

Life Lab

🌱Moment of the Month🌱

Life Lab Summer Camps are always a beautiful and nurturing way to share the interconnections of nature with children. Although our campers could not join us in the Life Lab Garden Classroom this summer, we wanted to make it possible for them to have fun at home! So our camp team assembled Summer Activity Care Packages full of materials, recipes, and advice for 225 children who had already registered for camp. They then carefully and lovingly hand delivered them to each family, occasionally getting to say Hi! from a safe distance, too.

"Thank you so much!! I have tears in my eyes. Thank you for pooling your ideas together for non-screen fun and learning opportunities. We can’t wait to dive in!
With much gratitude,"
Ellie

We are grateful to each and every camp family for their kindness, generosity, and patience as we all navigated the new realities of this year. As a community, the camp families even donated more than $12,000 of their camp fees towards ensuring that Life Lab will continue cultivating children’s love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education during this challenging time.

While we cannot deliver care packages to everyone in our broader Life Lab community, we hope that our growing BackPocketLearning.org website will help families seeking simple, fun, nature based activities and healthy family recipes to enjoy together at home this summer!🌈🐝🌻🌞

#lifelabmomentofthemonth #mylifelab #lifelab #summercamp #summerfun #gardenbasededucation #gardenlife #garden See MoreSee Less

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1 month ago

Life Lab

Our “Share Your Garden Saturday” video series continues with a sweet share from Emma Christie in the Life Lab garden at Starlight Elementary School in Watsonville🌸#shareyourgaredLL #school gardens PVUSD Food & Nutrition Services #LifeLab AmeriCorps See MoreSee Less

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1 month ago

Life Lab

In love with our @reneesgardenseeds flowers❤️thank you Renee for years of support & providing seeds for Life Lab gardens. We appreciate you! #reneesgardenseeds #lifelab #outdooreducation #gardensofgratitude #schoolgardens See MoreSee Less

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1 month ago

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“Education is a practice of Freedom” #emancipation #juneteenth #americanhistory #blackhistory #teachablemoments See MoreSee Less

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2 months ago

Life Lab

Happy National Eat Your Veggies Day!😋🥕

To celebrate today we wanted to share some of our impacts this past school year. In our seven PVUSD Partner Elementary Schools, 98% of kindergarten, 1st and 2nd teachers reported that the Fall 2019 NGSS in the Garden programs improved their 1,900 students’ attitudes towards fresh fruits and vegetables, their emotional well-being, and their connection with nature.

Our Kids Cook presentation brought exciting hands-on cooking and healthy eating to more than 1,500 3rd, 4th and 5th graders at these schools, too, in January, February and March. In tastings surveys 72% of the children reported liking or loving the fresh, healthful foods they ate, with 63% said they were trying a new fresh produce item for the first time.

278 second-graders from our partner schools enjoyed hands-on learning in field trips to our Blooming Classroom this school year. 59% reported tasting new healthy food items for the first time in lesson-based tastings, and 70% said they loved or liked what they tasted.

We would also like to remind you to eat a rainbow 🌈🥗

A diverse and colorful diet nourishes a strong and healthy body. All fruits and vegetables contain different combinations of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. In addition, they contain phytonutrients, which give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors and also play a wide range of roles in keeping our bodies healthy.

Thank you to our partners and sponsors for making this work possible. @sagegardenproject @pvhealth @pajarovalleyusd
@unfi @foodcorps

#eatyourveggies #EatYourVegetablesDay #mylifelab #vegetables See MoreSee Less

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2 months ago

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Life Lab provides truly inspiring training. Their breadth of experience, joy for teaching, and commitment to sharing knowledge highlight the best practices in food and garden education.
Erica CurryTraining and Professional Development ManagerFoodCorps
Thank you for such a wonderful field trip experience! Your leaders did such a great job at keeping our kids engaged.
Sheila BrickenKindergarten TeacherSan Lorenzo Valley Elementary
Terry had another awesome two weeks at Life Lab. I think he learns more there than in any other part of his year. School is great, but he’s passionate (and often dogmatic) about what he learns there.
Tara NeierCamp ParentSummer camp mom
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